Obrázky stránek

every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! it is rendered impossible by its vices.

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that in the place of them, just and amicable feelings toward all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness, as in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.

Hence, frequent collisions and obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject. At other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to the projects of hostility, instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations has been the victim.

So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and the wars of the latter without adequate inducements or justification. It leads, also, to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which are apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions, by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will

, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld ; and it gives to ambitious, corrupt, or deluded citizens, who devote themselves to the favorite nation, facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation to a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead publie opinion, to influence or awe the public councils ! Such an attachment of a small or weak nation toward a great and powerful one, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter. Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens, the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike for another, causę those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none or a very remote relation. Hence, she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected ; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war as our interests, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand on foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world, so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronising infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony and a liberal intercourse with all nations are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the stream of commerce, but forcing nothing ; establishing with powers so disposed (in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and natural opinion will permit, but temporary and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied as experience and circumstances shall dictate ; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another—that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character—that by such acceptance it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not having given more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illu- 1 sion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish—that they will control the usual current of the passions, or

But in my

prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good—that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism—this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and the other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of the 22d of April, 1793, is the index to my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interesi to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe, that according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity toward other nations.

The inducernents of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and constancy which it is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortune.

Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my

defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.

Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence, and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love toward it which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectations that retreat in which I promise myself to realize without alloy the sweet enjoyment of partaking in the midst of my fellow-citizens the benign influence of good laws under a free gove ernment—the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.


The unanimous choice of General Washington as president of the United States by the people of the United States, as expressed through the e.ectoral colleges of the several states at the organization of the government under the constitution, after its adoption, was officially announced to the president elect, at his seat at Mount Vernon, on the 14th of April, 1789. This commission was executed by Mr. Charles Thompson, secretary of the late continental Congress, who presented to him the certificate of the secretary of the senate, stating that he was unanimously elected; the votes of the electors for president and vice-president having been counted by both houses of the first Congress under the constitution, then in session at the city of New York, on the 6th of April. The

urgency of the public business requiring the immediate attendance of the president at the seat of government, he hastened his departure, and on the second day after receiving notice of his appointment, he took leave of Mount Vernon and his family, and set out for New York, in company with Mr. Thompson and Colonel Humphreys. On his way to that city he was everywhere greeted by the people of the different places through which he passed, with the most enthusiastic and decisive evidences of attachment and respect. Although the president hastened his journey, and wished to render it private, the public feelings were too strong to be suppressed. Crowds flocked around him wherever he stopped; and corps of militia, with companies of the most respectable citizens escorted him through their respective states.

In New Jersey, after a most interesting scene at Trenton, having been received by the governor of that state, who accompanied him to Elizabethtown point, he was met by a committee of Congress, who conducted him thence to New York. The president, committee, and other gentle men, embarked for the city in an elegant barge of thirteen oars, manned by thirteen branch pilots prepared for the purpose by the citizens of New York.

“ The display of boats," says Washington, in his private journal," which attended and joined on this occasion, some with vocal, and others with instrumental music on board, the decorations of the ships, the roar of can

non, and the loud acclamations of the people, which rent the sky as I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with sensations as painful (contemplating the reverse of this scene, which may be the case after all my labors to do good) as they were pleasing."

In this manner, on the 23d of April, the man possessed of a nation's love landed at the stairs on Murray's wharf, which had been prepared and ornamented for the purpose. There he was received by the governor of New York, and conducted, with military honors, through an immense concourse of people, to the apartments provided for him. These were attended by foreign ministers, by public bodies, by political characters, and by private citizens of distinction, who pressed around him to offer their congratulations, and to express the joy which glowed in their bosoms at seeing the man in whom all confided at the head of the American empire. This day of extravagant joy was succeeded by a splendid illumination.*

The ceremonies of the inauguration having been adjusted by Congress, on the 30th of April, 1789, the president attended in the senatechamber in order to take, in the presence of both houses, the oath prescribed by the constitution.

The session of Congress was then held in the city-hall, then called Federal hall, situated in Wall street, opposite the head of Broad street. To gratify the public curiosity, an open gallery adjoining the senate. chamber had been selected by Congress as the place in which the ceremony should take place. The oath was administered by Chancellor Livingston, of New York. Having taken it in the view of an immense concourse of people, who attested their joy by loud and repeated acclainations after the chancellor had pronounced, in a very feeling manner, “ Long live George Washington, president of the United States," he returned to the senate-chamber and delivered his inaugural address.

The inaugural address of the president was replied to, on the part of the senate, by their presiding officer, John Adams, who had been elected vice-president of the United States. This reply of the senate was full of confidence in the president, and the sentiments expressed breathed the purest patriotism, and were every way worthy of that dignified body. The same may be said of the reply of the house of representatives, delivered through their speaker, Frederick A. Muhlenberg, of Pennsylvania. To both of these addresses the president rejoined in a few brief and appropriate remarks.

Eleven only of the original thirteen states had adopted the federal constitution, previous to the organization of the government by the election of president, vice-president, and members of Congress. North Carolina and Rhode Island had rejected the constitution ; but finally came into the Union, the former in November, 1789, the latter in May, 1790. The

Marshall's Life of Washington.

« PředchozíPokračovat »